Hillary Clinton wrote a book called “It Takes A Village.” Moving to a place where you don’t speak the language and don’t understand the customs, makes you appreciate the sentiment all that much more. A couple weekends ago, I was out and about with my expat friend, Keith, and another expat, Joe who works with Keith. Keith has been in Superbad for over a year now. Joe is more of a newbie – he’s been here since the beginning of the year (I think). We were chatting about different things like our apartments and so forth, and he coined the phrase “Team Greg” as we were talking about the help we have hired.
In India, almost everyone has domestic help of some kind or another. The day that I moved into my place at Jayabheri, there was a woman that was doing the final cleaning of my place. Her name was Lahksmi. Immediately Lahksmi asked if I needed a maid, and although I told her that I worked a later schedule, she insisted on coming at 7am. I moved in on a Saturday, and sure enough, Sunday morning at 7am my door bell rang and it was Lahksmi – on a SUNDAY at 7am.
On Monday, I went to the management office to discuss with the building manager and I told her that I liked Lahksmi, but I couldn’t have a maid come in at 7am every morning. After a little back and forth (as it always is when I have something to discuss with someone from India) I found out that Lahksmi also worked for Jayabheri starting at 9:30am each day which is why she needed to come at 7am.
The building manager and I decided it would be best to get a different maid that could come at a later time of the morning. In walked Maryma. I escorted Maryma back to my place to show her around and introduce her to my boy, Mac. I decided that I wanted to be able to sleep in on the weekends, so I told Maryma that she only needed to come Monday thru Friday.
Just a little perspective – What I pay Maryma to come 5 days a week for entire month is equivalent to what I paid a maid to come once every two weeks back in DC! She cleans the kitchen and dishes each day, she does laundry, sweeps and mops everyday and can help coordinate with the maintenance staff if I need something addressed in my flat. Her English is not great, but she knows the basics. She’s very nice and sweet and always has a smile on her face.
(side note – cats and dogs are not common household pets in India and my experience has been that most people are actually afraid of cats. But not Maryma. She took to Mac very quickly. In fact, one day she came to clean and I was already at work. I came home for lunch and got a call from Maryma, almost in hysterics, as she thought Mac had gotten out of the apartment. It was so nice of her to be so concerned about him. Turns out he was sleeping in the wardrobe and she had shut the door without knowing he was inside.)
In a lot of cases, a maid will also cook for the family they work for. Unfortunately, Maryma is not a cook. So the search for a cook continued. I worked with the building manager, Jyothi, and she was able to recommend a woman that had cooked for foreigners before. A few days later, I met with Patricia and her sister Helen. They both cook and clean for families, and amazingly their English is some of the best I have heard, even among my professional colleagues. I hired Patricia to cook for me.
We agreed that she would come to my place twice a week – Mondays and Thursdays – and she would make a few different dishes that I could reheat throughout the week. The following Monday, we went to the grocery store together so I could know what it is she needs. From then on, I have been in absolute heaven.
Anyone that knows me, knows that I am more of an “eat to live” (versus a “live to eat”) type of person. I don’t enjoy cooking. I definitely don’t enjoy cleaning up from cooking. I’ve also been working crazy hours, so the thought of making food after working a 15 hour day is about the last thing in the world I want to do.
I can’t even begin to explain how awesome it is to have a cook. She makes Indian food – usually a paneer curry (or two, cause I love paneer), a chicken curry and sometimes a prawn curry. Sometimes, she’ll just grill the prawns or the chicken with garlic and other spices without the curry. She makes side salads, like a cucumber yogurt salad, or a potato, carrots and green bean salad.
She speaks and writes English – so when she comes, she leaves me a note to let me know what I need to get from the grocery store. She even uses text messages, so when I forgot my list one day and was at the grocery store, I was able to text her to ask what I needed to get.
The last member of Team Greg, so far, is my yoga instructor, Krishna. I knew when I moved to India I wanted to take up yoga. I wasn’t sure how I was gonna do it – I didn’t expect I would have my own, personal yoga instructor, but it’s funny how things work out. I met Krishna through Grindr (if you don’t know Grindr, google it! ;-). We chatted about yoga and he offered to give me a demo class. After the demo, I decided it would be great.
Krishna comes to my place 5 days a week and we have an hour-long private yoga session. We do breathing exercises and stretching. A big part of our class each day are sun salutations and then we do some asanas. I’ve become an expert at cobra (and it’s a great stretch for my back). I’m learning head stand (very tough) and many other positions too.
He’s usually here when Maryma comes to clean, so he’s been helpful in communicating with her and has also made some calls to maintenance for me.
So, that’s the team – Maryma, Patricia and Krishna. The only other possible addition to Team Greg would be a driver for errands on the weekend. I haven’t focused on that yet – and not sure that I will. But the current Team Greg is doing great and helping me make it through my transition to India, day-by-day. It takes a village!